The UTHR (Jaffna) released a report on the war. It’s mad long and this is my attempt to condense it. If I could sum, I think the main point so far is that none of the fighters cared about the human lives involved. Same for the polity that supported the war and the expatriates abroad who crowed for the LTTE. Basically, it was all a bunch of bullshit and people died.
I don’t necessarily agree with the report. I’m just summarizing it here.
1.1/1.2) The north is a wasteland and the incarceration of its population in camps shows a denial of truth and disregard for those Sri Lankan citizens. The UTHR does not believe that the government treated Vanni civilians decently and in accordance to humanitarian norms and rules of war.
A person who experienced the trauma of war and the humiliation of IDP camps told us,
“If the Government openly admitted that it had crushed and injured these people, it would be easier to accept than what it does now. It claims that it rescued the civilians without a single casualty, is caring for them, feeding them, resettling them and looking after all their needs. That kind of lie is the lowest thing you could inflict on another human being.”
1.3) The expats backing the LTTE abroad displayed little care for the people on the ground. The LTTE’s hubris and suckiness brought the Tamil people to ruin. The militancy’s descent into fascism should be documented. The government should also be called for its war on truth.
1.4) The military strategy was not especially sophisticated, it didn’t balance the human variables but rather killed its way forward. Little thought was given to rules of engagement or preserving civilian life. The LTTE didn’t help matters by crippling themselves through reliance on terrorism (and getting banned). Near the end the LTTE was losing internal support, bunkered only by knowledge of the state’s brutality.
1.5) Operational freedom in the war basically meant that the people did not matter. Critics, journalists, civilians, soldiers, whatever.
This was a war fought on ideological obsessions with both sides regarding fighting men and women, and civilians, as disposable fodder. That is why the Government wants all mouths sealed.
1.6) The government shelled the shit out of civilians and hospitals and many people died. There was no planning or rules of engagement and food and medicine were under-supplied. The insistence on zero civilian casualties meant no accounting of costs.
1.7) People were shelled as they dispersed and fled before Kilinochchi. People were hit and then the hospitals were hit.
2.1) After Kili fell many knew the war was over, but no one was going to tell Prabhakaran. Giving up was vetoed, further terrorism was vetoed. The defense was divided into three rings, but the first two basically kept getting hammered and retreating. The army was well equipped and shelling heavily. The LTTE was throwing up cannon fodder that barely knew to fire a gun.
2.2) There was a lot of hated conscription, reportedly under Tamilchelvam and the Political Wing. Youth were abducted from bars, going to the bathroom in the morning, dragged from their families. One conscriptor in Menik Farm was thrashed by fellow inmates.
2.3) Shelling and casualties increased after the fall of Kili. People were caught between shelling from Army and LTTE, neither of which seemed to care about their displacement. They rarely had a cooked meal. Leaving the bunker for tea often got you killed.
2.4) The Safe Zone was shelled. The LTTE was keeping people hostage.
This is where the LTTE showed its ruthless side, which by May had also become sadistic. When the people advanced as a group to leave, a line of LTTE cadres blocked their path. If the people persisted, the LTTE opened fire laming several of them and killing some as an example.
There were numerous reports of the LTTE killing civilians begging to leave. The Army fired shells in response to the LTTE, and sometimes of their own accord. It was common wisdom that the safe zone was the least safe.
2.5) The LTTE executed prisoners near the end. People resisting conscription were also imprisoned.
2.6) Hospitals were shelled. The LTTE callously kept vehicles near the hospitals. There were reports of cluster munitions. The LTTE killed a lot of soldiers near Puthukkudiyiruppu and there was punitive shelling. As the LTTE left about 20,000 people fled at Iruddumadu. People commended the Army and condemned the LTTE for shooting at them. The LTTE would try to provoke the Army among fleeing civilians, but the Army didn’t react against the people.
Hospitals, however, were hit, the ICRC was kept out and there was a deadly disregard for the injured and sick.
2.7) The government hit LTTE hospitals, a probable war crime. The LTTE was also using ambulances for transport, etc, so both sides were morally contemptible.
2.8) LTTE prisons were bombed, killing deserters, etc. Many had been executed before by the LTTE. People were rebelling against the LTTE, and getting shot or beaten.
2.9) The LTTE was running out of ammo and an operation to capture Army supplies failed, killing hundreds of cadres and injuring Charles Anthony (Prabha’s son).
LTTE strategy was to cut troops off from supplies and then attack them, not attack head-on.
2.10) There were rumors of an Army slave brothel in Kili. Like the Channel 4 execution video, this should be investigated. It seems unlikely, but there are credible reports of captured cadres being killed.
2.11) The LTTE was surrounded in the No Fire Zone. The Army was hitting this area with conventional shells, etc.
So, I think Part 2 is the more interesting because that side was the information gap. I think the UTHR views both sides as bad and callous but honestly, it seems like the LTTE knew the thing was over after Kili and kept sadistically tormenting the people for months afterwards. There were countless reports of the LTTE conscripting by force and killing and beating people who tried to state the obvious or escape.
The UTHR seems to think that the Army attacked hospitals and shelling civilians. I think this it probably true. Morally abhorrent, but, well… I don’t know.
I’m going through the rest of this report. It’s quite long.